In some ways, I kind of dread Lent. If you do it up right, it's not exactly fun. I wouldn't say that it's tremendously difficult or anything, but as a pansy, anything requiring any sort of self-sacrifice is kind of hard. On the other hand, I look forward to it. A lot of times I can get stuck in a rut, and Lent pushes me out of the rut and back on track. I'm starting to notice the rut. I'm starting to be ready (albeit grudgingly) for my push.
Lent is an interesting discussion these days. It's not just for Catholics anymore! Well, I guess it never was, but growing up, we were about the only denomination in my small town that celebrated it. No Anglicans or other more liturgical types that also celebrated it. Now there are a lot of other more evangelical type churches that are jumping in and getting involved as well. This annoys some. I've heard of people saying that they're not going to celebrate Lent because they don't want to follow the herd mentality. I guess I don't see it that way. I see it as unitive, a shared experience that can give us some common ground.
Others see it as too many rules. For one thing, they don't want anyone to tell them what to give up. If they do give something up, then what? Do you count Sundays? If you don't count Sundays, then do you gorge on that day? What if you're at someone else's house? I heard one person with a Greek Orthodox background that gave some great insight to some of those questions. They said that in their family, if someone gave something up, they did so quietly without announcing it to the rest of the world. If they gave up TV, and everyone was watching it as they were visiting friends, then they watched, too. They didn't want to make their sacrifice paramount. Charity towards friends came first. On the other hand, if someone gave up chocolate or alcohol, then they just quietly didn't have any while others did. I love the balance in that kind of a view! Also love how that view of Lent is not about bragging about what you gave up.
I know that Lent is still not something that's observed by everyone. I think that's fine, but it kind of makes me sad. It has meant so much to me each year as a preparation for Easter, and as a renewal of my commitment to Christ, that it always takes me by surprise when someone has never observed it or thought about it. Easter is so huge for me, that it's always a little shocking when some people only take that day to celebrate it. I'm Catholic! Liturgically, we spend the 40 days before solemnly preparing for and remembering Christ's sacrifice. Then we celebrate the Easter season; 40 days of rejoicing!
What's your experience? Do you "do" Lent? Do you like to give something up, or do you like to add something to your routine, like prayer or spiritual reading? Any tips for things that have made Lent especially meaningful for you?
I'll have plenty more to say about this, though I'll probably wait until much closer to when it actually starts (unless places keep throwing it in my face that it's coming).